File photo.

Johannesburg - On the eve of the worldwide launch of the much-anticipated History Channel documentary, Miracle Rising: South Africa, a Wits University professor has filed papers in court suing the film’s producers for copyright infringement.

Dr Geoffry Heald, a senior lecturer at Wits Business School, claims that his literary works Learning Amongst Enemies: A Phenomenological Study of the South African Constitutional Negotiations from 1985 to 1988 and South Africa’s Voluntary Relinquishment of its Nuclear Arsenal and Accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in Terms of International Law have formed the basis for production house Combined Artists’ new documentary Miracle Rising: South Africa which premiers on the History Channel on Sunday night.

Heald has approached the court to ask that it declares that the film Miracle Rising constitutes a reproduction or adaptation, or both, of Learning Amongst Enemies and The Nuclear Arms Relinquishment.

He said he had been working with the producers, Michele Sparkes and Brett Lotriet, on the documentary film since 2006.

The Wits academic said he initially had approached the History Channel in the US in 2006.

He sent them his PHD entitled “Learning Amongst Enemies” and enquired whether they thought it could be converted into a documentary film.

The History Channel replied saying he should contact Combined Artists and Brett Lotriet, who then worked for Edenrage Productions.

Numerous meetings with Combined Artists were then held and a trial film run based on his thesis was arranged in 2006.

Learning Amongst Enemies, was given to the History Channel, Combined Artists, Brett Lotriet, Thys Botha, George Mazarakis and Michele Sparkes, among others.

The Miracle Rising project eventually materialised in October 2011.


Heald said after having been approached by Combined Artists to discuss his accreditation, he insisted that his copyright be acknowledged in the documentary.

But Combined Artists insisted that the documentary was not based on Heald’s two theses and that he had no claim to copyright.

Heald has in court papers said while he has not yet seen the final documentary, having been excluded from its production, he believes that the previous cuts (in his possession) were based on his thesis and that therefore the film constitutes an adaption of his copyright.

But Sim and Botsi Attorneys, who represent Combined Artists, who confirmed Heald’s law suit, said his claims were incorrect.

“The documentary is a historical documentary based on historical events that occurred in South Africa leading up to its democracy,” they said in response to questions from the Saturday Star.

Saturday Star